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Breezeblock nest

When I had to jack up the older car (the C1) to make it a non-car by virtue of its wheels not touching the ground, I wasn't sure how high it needed to go. So I got ten breezeblocks, for a potential "two at each corner and two spares". As it turned out, one was too low and two were too high (for the jack). So I compromised with one and a bit of wood from the wood pile.
This means I had some breezeblocks left over, stacked in the corner of the driveway opposite the kitchen window (around back).

The other day, having just finished work, I noticed that the breezeblocks were making noises. Now that's not normal. Haunted breezeblocks. I could understand haunted stones, even a haunted fireplace. But breezeblocks? Too young to be haunted.

So armed with my camera, I discovered the explanation is much simpler than that.

Nest in breezeblocks

I'm not sure whether to say "damn, that's impressive" or "what the hell birdbrain". Certainly, it was a very quick adaption to something new and something modern. Trees are old hat. You want solid, you want a concrete nest.



I had to go into a little local town to send mom's tax return (hope I've done it adequately!) because the post offices are only open certain times and certain days "because COVID". I had wanted to sent it from the town where I work, after work. But currently the post office there is closed Monday to Wednesday.
So I went in, filled out a form, sent it registered for €6 (because the closing date for postal applications is tomorrow, though they might have extended that "because COVID").

From there, I went to the pharmacy to get some vitamin pills. Soluble things, caffeine and ginseng, 10 vitamins, two minerals. Well, given that I eat ready meals at work and tend to eat stuff like pasta at home, some vitamins aren't necessarily a bad thing. I've been taking three a week for years, and while it cannot make my immune system invincible, I feel better in myself. Whether that's real or psychological is anybody's guess, but I suppose feeling better is the anticipated end result, so...

Since it was a nice day, a little after 11am, and I had absolutely nothing planned, I decided to head on to Châteaubriant now that I could. It was a trouble free and peaceful journey down, to the sounds of Journey, Erasure, Belinda Carlisle... yup, I had the '80s playlist on.

My first port of call was to swing by Action. Their website said the shop was shut, but since it was on the way (I take the back route to the Leclerc supermarket, fewer roundabouts and crazy people) it wouldn't hurt to look.
As it turns out, they were open. People could come in one by one. Hand wash solution was obligatory (mom would have loved that, she was quite allergic to something called "imadazole", an anti-fungal that often turns up in ... pretty much everything liquid). I also had to take a panier even though it was not necessary. Obligatory, she said. And everybody had strict instructions to only touch what they planned to purchase.
Action may have had plenty of interesting things, but I made a bee-line straight for the other end of the shop and grabbed five boxes of Celebrations chocolates. They're part of what's getting me through this lockdown situation. You see, on nice sunny days I can go outside. I'm sitting out front to write this. There's stuff to do in the garden, or just kick back and read an e-book under a convenient tree.
But when it rains or is grey and cold? Less fun. Sometimes I program. And when I don't feel like it, or my concentration isn't up to it, I can arrange the pillows on my bed and sit with a box of chocolates and Netflix. After all, there are only so many bread makers that I can take apart...
Fifty five days. My supply of chocolates was running out. I topped up with an easter box from the supermarket, but they're always much more expensive than the boxes at Action. I don't know why, but I do know I paid a little over €10 for a kilogram of chocolates. That'll see me for a while.

Next stop, the supermarket. What was interesting here was the number of people walking around without face masks. Some were, but it was nothing like the clientelle of the Super U where I work where the majority wear them. Additionally entire families were walking around, even though they're not really supposed to. My main reason for going was Blonvillers organic cane sugar (it gives tea a pleasing taste that Daddy's cane sugar (organic or otherwise) simply can't match), and Heinz baked beans. They were out of beans, except the ones with pork sausages selling for something like €2,50 a can. Hell no.
I got some other stuff, actually a lot of other stuff, it was nice to have a change from the Super U. I wasn't worried, as I don't plan on going back this month...even though they gave me a coupon for €3 if I spend €40 next week. Sorry, I don't plan to go to Big Town for a weekly shop like I used to. Mom and I did it almost every week (when we didn't go down to Clisson or Ancenis). But that was our habit. My habit? Not yet formed.

I thought it might be a good idea to have some real tools in my toolbox, so I got these. They, combined, cost about €5,50 so not great quality. But if they can undo a bolt, that's kind of what their job is.

One pack has double sized spanners, with each end one mm larger than the other, so it's 6mm up to 20mm and then skipping to 22mm.
The other pack has a smaller range of sizes, with an open spanner end and a circular bolt-gripping end (both the same sizes).
So, I had to evict the oscilloscope and multimeter to make my toolbox now an actual box of tools.
Tools in the toolbox

Following that, I popped over to Jardiland as my basil pretty much failed to grow. Probably too cold, although the tomatoes seemed to be coming along. I still have seeds, so I ought to try again. I might do that this afternoon.
However, "because COVID", Jardiland isn't open during lunchtime. Actually, the opening times seem to be more restricted than normal.

My final port of call was the big Hyper U, but alas they didn't have baked beans either. I can imagine the local Brits panic buying beans and tea (both shops were out of Yorkshire Tea, I noticed). It's not a great "English selection" but there are a few things for the ex-pat community. I got a Greene's cheesecake mix (from the Leclerc). I might make that tomorrow.


Didn't I just do this?

Upon returning home, I had a well deserved tea (nobody on the roads on the way to Château, the entire world on the way back - yikes!). Then I thought I'd play with my new spanners. So I lifted Marte's bonnet and removed the shielding around the air filter. Then I unbolted the air filter (a doddle with a real spanner!) and since I did that, I dipped a cardboard drinking straw into the petrol tank, put my finger over the end to lift out a small dose of petrol that I threw into the carb. The engine tends to need a kick in the ass to get it going.
Everything was put back together, but, alas, if I had some petrol in the carb, it seemed obligatory to crank the engine. And when the engine started, well, the grass really looked like it needed a cut. But - wait - didn't I just do that?!? Damn the rain... eight days after it was cut it needed cut again!
So that's what I did yesterday afternoon.



Having spiders in the kichen is useful. When there are spiders, there are fewer flies. Ideally there would be neither, but life doesn't work like that. There's too much nature around here so there are always insects. Nothing will dent the fly population. I doubt a mushroom cloud would offer more than a temporary hiccup.
I'm also pleased to see that the big (wild) borage and the california poppy seem quite popular with the bees, especially the white-tailed ones. There had been a dramatic drop in the number of bees these past few years, but there seem to be more this year. Because COVID? Farmers not chucking weedkiller everywhere? Who knows.

Anyway, spiders. Autonomous insect killing cyborgs from another planet. Tell me I'm wrong when you see this photo:

I think its the glowing white light on the head that does it. It's real - the only processing done to the photo was to zoom it in and enhance the contrast slightly to make the patterning stand out more.



I noticed on the ROOL forums, John Williams who, talking about coffee, opined:
These deluded people who think these capsule machines make real coffee! Just a ruse for shifting more freeze-dried in with some inferior grounds.

Which got me to thinking about the problem. And what it comes down to is three interacting issues:

The first issue is that coffee is not good for the body. It is acidic, which immedately is going to cause problems with those who suffer acid reflux. It gives you a caffeine hit, which does a lot more in the body than perk up sleepy brain cells, and since coffee is a really complicated mix of chemicals, with or without caffeine, it will cause the release of a hormone called cholecystokinin (abbreviated to CCK) which is, politely put, responsible for "gastric empying". Some people are intolerant to the CCK or the acid, so they probably shouldn't drink coffee at all. And some people are intolerant to the caffeine hit, so they may find "cold brew" to be better, or avoiding robusta and blended coffee and sticking with arabica. This is, of course, talking about black coffee. Interactions with milk, lactose intolerance, and all sorts of issues complicate other forms of coffee.

The second issue is that instant coffee is not really coffee beans. Instant coffee is actually brewed (drinkable) coffee that is then dried using various processes so that the end result is coffee particles which end up clumped together in what everybody would recognise as instant coffee. This has a lot of difference on the coffee taste. Those who get properly freshly ground coffee from a so-called "barista" will probably never view instant as anything other than flat and somewhat bitter. Proper coffee from actual coffee beans has a much more complex aroma and flavour, which is affected by any number of issues - where the coffee is grown, the elevation, whether or not it's the side of a volcano, the weather during the time your beans were grown, how long until harvesting (leaving the coffee cherry to ripen starts fermentation which can give a fruitier aroma), what sort of plant it actually is (robusta plants have less sugar than arabica so will be a stronger and more bitter sort of coffee), how long between plant and cup, the type of bean roasting (dark roast gives a stronger taste, but has less caffeine), how long between roasting and drinking (ideally no more than four weeks), the type of grinding, how long between grinding and brewing (ideally no more than thirty minutes), the brew method (slower brew gives more caffeine as the water is in contact with the coffee grounds for longer, negated if you're using pressure which performs a similar process in less time), and of course the storage conditions at each point... all of those implicate the final taste of a real coffee that instant cannot even hope to match. Basically, instant coffee is for those who want to drink coffee but don't know coffee. The general caffeine content of instant is more or less the same as proper coffee, so if it's just a hit you're looking for, a cup of instant will suffice. But don't delude yourself into thinking that you're drinking anything that even remotely resembles real proper coffee from ground beans.

The final issue is that a number of instants and cheap commercial grounds will cut their coffee with other substances such as chickory, in order to use less actual coffee in their coffee. They also tend to use robusta more (harsher taste but higher caffeine content) than arabica. It would not suprise me if there were not additives and flavour enhancers in instant coffees as well, to attempt to give back some of the tastes of real coffee.

In short, coffee is incredibly complex. That it, in its various forms and blends, can have different effects (some detrimental) on people really should not be a surprise.


Now to Tassimmo. The pack says "roast and ground coffee". So let's see what's inside.

On the left, raw ground coffee. It's worth noting that in order to work in a coffee machine, these grounds are very fine. John is right when he says this is an inferior coffee because grounds as fine as these have a "life" measured in minutes. Seriously, they're not their best after a mere half hour. In order to try to offset this, the grounds will be foil packed, and more than likely in a protective atmosphere such as nitrogen or perhaps a simple vacuum. This, however, is a purely technical limitation. One simply cannot have all of the benefits of a freshly ground coffee from a commercialised disc that has a lifespan measured in years.
On the right, the contents of a disc after brewing (brewing the coffee shown in the white cup in the middle).

For your dose of coffee porn, here's a close up of the dry grounds.


Now the brewed grounds, which looks more or less the same, only wet. The wet grounds are more volumous. This is normal, as coffee grounds expand when they are brewed (as opposed to instant that dilutes).


And finally, this is the oily slop one gets when mixing the dry grounds with water. Notice that the coffee does not dilute. It will liberate some coffee essence into the water (that's pretty much what it is supposed to do, tea works on the same principle) but the coffee grounds remain. The grounds have not noticably expanded as this coffee has been made with cold water (I just went over to the outdoor tap), but even so the grounds have liberated some of their taste and oils into the liquid.


It is, obviously, not an enhaustive test, suffice to say that I feel reasonably convinced that the coffee in my T-Disc is actual coffee, not padded out with instant.

I didn't drink this. The L'Or discs are for a friend who is a coffee drinker. I find the stuff to be vile, like concentrated burnt juniper berry. So it wasn't a concern when a strong gust of wind lifted the lot and dumped it on the grass. Well, look on the bright side. I think I'm about to find out if coffee can be an effective weed killer (since we can't use glyphosphate any more and the replacements only "kill" the part of the plant that is visible and doesn't touch the root system at all, making today's weedkillers little more than a rather expensive placebo). If nothing else, I quite like the smell of coffee (if not the taste) so the smell lingering out front is unexpected but not entirely unwelcome!

It was, however, karmically displeasing to brew a coffee nobody was going to drink, so I will balance it out by putting the kettle on and enjoying my beverage of choice - tea. ☺



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David Pilling, 16th May 2020, 01:59
oooh wouldn't you like a socket set, go on, you know you would. sooh useful. 
My favourite "Terrys Magneto Spanners", given as a child, felt they'd be incredibly rare, turns out 10 a penny on ebay. Probly Imperial but will do metric nuts - tiny ones. 

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